Sheriff: Shooter at Berrien courthouse was handcuffed

Francis X. Donnelly
The Detroit News

St. Joseph — An inmate was handcuffed when he wrested a gun from a sheriff’s deputy and killed two bailiffs at a western Michigan courthouse Monday, a sheriff said Tuesday.

Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey said he misspoke Monday when he said prisoner Larry Darnell Gordon wasn’t handcuffed at Berrien County Courthouse.

Gordon, 44, was handcuffed with his hands in front while being escorted from a holding cell to a courtroom, said Bailey.

Gordon also shot the deputy and a woman before being killed by officers. The injuries to the woman and the deputy, James Atterberry Jr., weren’t life-threatening.

Killed in the outburst were bailiffs Joseph Zangaro, 61, and Ronald Kienzle, 63, who were both retired police officers.

Among the charges Gordon was in court for were assault, kidnapping, two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, and aggravated domestic violence, according to court records.

The first three were felonies and the last a misdemeanor.

Further details about the alleged offenses wasn’t available. The courthouse was closed Tuesday because of the shooting.

Bailey said the deaths weighed heavily on him and he had a restless night Monday trying to sleep.

“Both were good friends,” he said about the victims. “They were great friends, great people.”

Bailey said the courthouse was following typical protocol at the time of the shooting.

He said Atterberry and the two bailiffs are well-trained with many years of experience.

“We move people every day,” said Bailey. “Safety is of utmost (importance).

He said Gordon had given no signs of trouble or resistance during his time as an inmate.

“We were familiar with him,” said Bailey. “He’s always been cooperative the entire time he’s been here.”

He said the sheriff’s office will review the incident to see how such a thing could be avoided in the future.

The sheriff’s office also will meet with the chief judge of Berrien Circuit Court to review security procedures, said Bailey.

“We’re going to look at everything,” he said.

When the court reopens Wednesday, it will do so with a higher than usual number of deputies, he said.

The courthouse normally has 10 bailiffs, who are each assigned to a specific courtroom.

Without giving a specific number, Bailey said the higher number of officers would help calm nerves in the aftermath of the shootings.

Zangaro was head of court security. He retired from the Michigan State Police as commander of the Bridgman Post. Kienzle retired as a sergeant in the Benton Township police department after serving in the U.S. Army.

In 2011, Zangaro told the Herald-Palladium newspaper in Benton Harbor that security staff had a “ton of experience,” more than many police departments.

“Probably 90 percent of the people who are here don’t want to be,” he said of people with business in the courthouse. “They have either a criminal issue, a civil issue or a family issue, and those become very emotionally charged sometimes.”

313) 223-4186

Twitter: @francisXdonnell